Virginia Tech is going bowling for the 25th straight season. The Hokies have accepted an invitation to play in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla. They will face Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The game will be played on December 28, 2017 with a kickoff slated at 5:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN and WatchESPN.
The Hokies finished the regular season 9-3, 5-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finishing in second place in the Coastal division behind Miami. Oklahoma State is also 9-3, going 6-3 and finishing third in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State Features the Best Passing Game in the Nation
Oklahoma State is second in the nation in total offense, putting up 576 yards per contest. Their passing game is the best in all of Football Bowl Sub-division. putting up close to 392.3 yards per game.
The Cowboys feature Rudolph, who is expected to be a first-round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft. Rudolph has thrown for 4,553 yards (most in FBS) and 35 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He has a completion percentage rating of 65 percent. He has a strong arm, and ability to stand tall in the pocket.
Rudolph’s favorite target is WR James Washington. Washington goes along with the recent lineage of NFL talent at WR to come out of Oklahoma State as the likes of Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon. The senior stands 6-foot-1 and is having his best season to date in college. On the year, Washington has 69 receptions for a career-high 1,423 yards (most in FBS) and 12 touchdowns. He will certainly be a tough cover even against one of the more talented secondary’s in all of college football.
While Washington will get the most attention, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster cannot discount 6-foot-4 senior WR Marcell Ateman. He too is having his best season in college with 54 receptions for 1,049 yards (5th in FBS) and eight touchdowns.
The Hokies’ front seven will also be tested trying to defend RB Justice Hill. The sophomore has rushed for 1,347 yards and 14 touchdowns in Oklahoma State’s spread offense. The Cowboys are 48th in rush offense.
Virginia Tech’s defense is 12th in the nation in yards allowed, yielding 305 yards per game. The Hokies give up 187.2 yards in the air, ranking 21st in the FBS. Against the run, they are just as impressive allowing 118.1 which ranks 16th.
Still, it’s safe to say despite facing West Virginia, Clemson, Miami, and Georgia Tech this season, Oklahoma State will be the toughest offense Foster’s defense will face all year. Keeping Rudolph off schedule and preventing the extended plays and deep long throws will be crucial to any chances of success for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech’s Offense Will Have Its Chances against Below-average OK State Defense
For the Hokies’ offense, they will have opportunities against the Cowboys’ defense. Oklahoma State ranks 73rd in the nation in total defense, allowing 400 yards per game — 268.5 of that being allowed on the ground. Oklahoma State’s rush defense ranks 120th in the nation.
Oklahoma State allowed opponents to rush for 200 yards or more four times, compiling a 2-2 record in those contests. In comparison the Hokies allowed 200-yard performances three times, winning just once with one of those opponents was triple-option Georgia Tech. But unlike the Cowboys, the Hokies did not allow more than a 60 percent completion rate in the passing game. Oklahoma State did so twice.
For Virginia Tech’s rushing attack (167.2 yards per game — 63rd in nation) that has struggled much of the season, they will have opportunities to keep Oklahoma State’s defense off balance and possibly put up some points to keep pace with the Cowboys’ vaunted offense.
Freshman QB Josh Jackson will need it to open the passing game that features future NFL talent Cam Phillips. Phillips has 71 receptions for 964 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson may be able to boost the rushing game with his own legs.
While the Hokies have struggled this season with winning teams such posting a 1-2 record against ranked opponents, Oklahoma State does not have the defense of Clemson or Miami. Oklahoma State’s offense will certainly be a challenged, but Virginia Tech could have its best offensive output of the season. They’ll just need not to get into a shootout with Rudolph and that offense.